What Is *She* Doing Here?

I. Introduction

As I was walking by one of the main Modern Language Association (MLA) conference hotels in 2008, I overheard a graduate student from my university remark to a friend, “Hey, she’s a librarian. What is she doing here?” My first impulse was to point indignantly to my name in the program and yank out my laminated wallet-sized PhD diploma (if only I had one).  I wished that I had followed the lead of my friend Amanda and gotten a “PhD” tattoo on my bicep, so that I could roll up my sleeve and make a doctoral muscle, à la Rosie the Riveter. But then I realized that he was asking an appropriate question, one that I occasionally obsess over and that colleagues across the university probably pose as well. 

By asking “what is she doing here?," the grad student was reflecting the common understanding that professional conferences assemble people with the same professional identity. Librarians usually don’t attend the MLA conference, nor do English PhDs typically go to conferences on digital libraries or educational technology. But I do. What am I doing here as an English PhD directing Rice University’s Digital Media Center (DMC), the library’s central computer lab for multimedia projects?  Bridging two worlds. Applying what I have learned from my graduate study in literature to librarianship and vice versa.  I believe that my training in the humanities as well as my work experience in libraries help me to understand what services and resources students and faculty need in the Internet Age.

In this essay, I will consider the opportunities and challenges facing an English PhD working in a library, weaving together my own experiences with general observations about alternative academic careers, professionalization, and the future of libraries and the humanities. Rather than getting depressed about the pathetic job market or the perceived decline of the humanities (Weisbuch), humanities graduate students can consider careers in libraries and other academic units. As academic libraries make the transition to digital content and aim to provide better support for research and teaching, many are eager to draw on the expertise of humanities PhDs. A career in an academic library offers many advantages, such as the satisfactions of service, the freedom to pursue what interests me, the opportunity to collaborate on projects, and the ability to pursue a more flexible, “family-friendly” career. But a library career may also entail sacrifices, including the lack of opportunities to teach semester-long courses, the difficulty finding time to do research, and the occasional injuries to pride.  I meandered my way to my current position as a digital humanist/ librarian by following my curiosity and pouncing on opportunity.  I will suggest more formal ways of preparing humanities graduate students for non-traditional academic positions, such as providing internship opportunities, professional training, alternatives to the dissertation monograph, and the support of professional organizations.  My experience has convinced me that both the route to and the joy of a career in the digital humanities (DH) is participating in the open, diverse community of faculty, librarians, programmers, designers, graduate students, research staff, funders, and others by blogging, Twittering, attending conferences and workshops, and collaborating on projects.

As Geoffrey Rockwell suggests, the digital humanities has reached “a point of disciplinary evolution” that requires careful consideration of how to delineate the discipline without being disciplinary or establishing impermeable boundaries, and how to define the “the community so that it is inclusive without being so undefined as to be meaningless” (Rockwell). What makes the digital humanities so exciting and yet so difficult to corral is its heterogeneity.  Being a digital humanist doesn’t require you to have a particular degree, skill set, disciplinary affiliation, or institutional home.  Rather, being a digital humanist requires a passion for exploring the role of computing in advancing the humanities, whether through developing innovative research methods such as data mining or geospatial scholarship; building tools to support analyzing or representing knowledge; creating theoretical approaches that integrate an understanding of computing; promoting interactive, dynamic means of scholarly communication; constructing digital collections; conducting cultural studies of digital media; and so forth. Digital humanities includes different disciplines—history, literature, the classics, philosophy, religious studies, anthropology, computer science, information science, even biology. It involves people with different professional backgrounds—faculty, graduate students, librarians, information technologists, research staff, officials at foundations and government agencies. Not surprisingly, the identity of the digital humanities is contested, with debates over whether its focus should be cultural studies, computation, or both, as well as whether it is a discipline, a set of methods, an “interdiscipline,” or “an array of convergent practices” (McCarty; UCLA Mellon Seminar in Digital Humanities). Many feel exhausted by the debates and just want to move forward, to create rather than talk. As Dave Lester puts it, “more hack, less yack” (Lester). I sympathize. Yet we cannot avoid conversations about the future of the profession, since these conversations will shape what is valued, how people are trained for digital humanities work, and how this work is supported.

I am writing for two audiences: current graduate students considering alternative academic (alt-ac) careers, and leaders of humanities departments, libraries, digital humanities associations, and grant agencies, who help to shape the environments where digital humanists do their work.  I hope to convince both audiences of the advantages of the alt-ac path as well as to suggest ways to overcome the challenges.  For graduate students, I offer advice about shaping a career; for “decision makers,” I make recommendations for preparing students for the digital humanities profession and supporting digital humanities professionals.  Even as I seek to broaden the professional identity of librarians to include people without an Master of Library Science (MLS) degree, I also believe that the digital humanities must move further in professionalizing in order to establish stable career opportunities for its practitioners and to have more of a public impact. Of course the digital humanities is already professionalized, with scholarly associations, conferences, journals, and awards. But we may have reached the point where digital humanities associations need to do more to promote professional education and develop a core set of values. The community should pursue greater professionalization not to create boundaries, but to open up more opportunities for people to do meaningful work in the digital humanities, whether in faculty or non-faculty positions.

II. Going Alternative: The Rationale for an Alternative Academic Career

I wanted to attend graduate school in English because I loved doing research, reading literature and writing about it.  Although many of my college classmates whined about writing papers, I actually looked forward to it, thrilled by the process of generating ideas, crafting sentences, and revising until I arrived at a strong.  Rather naively, I thought being paid to read and write sounded like paradise.  I also wanted to teach, to share my love of literature with others.  And, frankly, when I graduated from college with a BA in English and history during the recession of the early 1990s, I wasn’t sure what else to do. I was pretty good at literary study and enjoyed it—why not do that?  So off to the University of Virginia I went.

Soon after I arrived at Virginia, I became dispirited.  In part, I was afflicted by the anxiety generated by the “permission to proceed” process. Virginia admitted a large number of master’s students (over 100, as I recall), but only a small number (around 15, I believe) made the cut to continue on to the PhD.[1] As a result, competition rather than community ruled. My boyfriend (now husband) hated going with me to English department parties, since the conversation almost always turned to permission or the job market. As I worked away in my library cubicle on seminar papers, I felt isolated.  I sometimes wondered what the point of literary study was, anyway.  Although there were some critics whose work I admired, much of what I read seemed unremarkable and of small social significance, and I doubted I could produce anything better. I went to meetings about the job market where angry grad students accused the department of betraying them.  I heard stories of people who had been on the market for years without results, or who moved from one adjunct position to another, or who ended up at third-rate colleges in places they didn’t want to live. I worried that I could never do enough work and felt guilty when I was not working.  During a semester when I was off from teaching to focus on my dissertation, I struggled with insomnia almost every night, because if I was sleeping I wasn’t working (not that I made any progress when I was awake).

I was not alone in suffering what Piper Fogg calls the “Grad-School Blues.”  Indeed, I heard that the counseling center at my university was seeing so many depressed English grad students that a staff psychologist called the department chair and asked, “What are you doing to your grad students?”  This story may be apocryphal, but it still carries truth.  I visited UVA’s Counseling Services for help with my insomnia, but was told that the university’s center was too busy to see someone with relatively minor problems and that I should see an outside counselor. Depression seems to be common among graduate students, a result of the pressure, financial insecurity, and isolation of graduate study.  For example, a 2004 survey at UC Berkeley found that “67 percent of graduate students said they had felt hopeless at least once in the last year; 54 percent felt so depressed they had a hard time functioning” (Fogg).  

The dismal job market in the humanities exacerbates grad students’ anxiety.  Why spend eight to ten years scraping by on less than $20,000 a year while you train for… no job? On average, it takes 9.3 years to complete a humanities PhD (American Academy of Arts & Sciences), if you don’t drop out first. (I took ten years, but I was working full-time for almost two of them.) Nearly 50% of all English PhD students leave before completing their degree, and only about half of those who remain end up in tenured faculty positions, mostly at institutions that are not research universities (Menand, “The Ph.D. Problem”).  In the current recession, the job market seems to be getting even worse. The number of positions in English language and literature posted on the MLA’s job list fell 35 percent for 2009-2010 and a total of 51 percent over the past two years, the biggest decline in the 35 years that the MLA has been monitoring job trends in the list (Jaschik).  Only 53% of the advertised jobs in 2009-2010 were for tenure track assistant professor positions. The situation is unlikely to get better, since general trends indicate that the number of tenure-track faculty jobs is shrinking.  According to the American Association of University Professors’ 2006 Contingent Faculty Index, between 1975 and 2003 the percentage of tenured and tenure-track faculty positions declined from 56.8 percent to 35.1 percent (cited by Conn).

Troubled by the horrible job market and the senselessness of investing years of your life in what will likely be a fruitless pursuit, William Pannapacker (aka Thomas Benton) recently advised prospective humanities graduate students “Don’t Go” (Benton, “Graduate School in the Humanities”). In response, people wrote painful letters articulating the human costs of pursuing a humanities doctorate, such as the person who calls the time spent in a PhD program “the most destructive four years of my life,” a current grad student “struggling with feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness,” and a PhD who is “living at home once again and making $10,000 a year” (“Letters About "Graduate School in the Humanities: Just Don't Go"”). Yet Pannapacker’s advice—don’t go unless you are wealthy, well-connected, financially supported by a spouse, or have your degree paid for by your employer—narrows the doctorate to elites, ignores the passion that motivates people to pursue the PhD despite the risks, and overlooks the ways that graduate study in the humanities can train people for a range of careers. Instead of limiting humanities doctorates to people with money or connections, we need to make doctoral programs more diverse, reform the academic job market so that adjunct positions are replaced by full-time tenure track jobs, and prepare humanities graduate students for non-faculty as well as faculty positions. Indeed, in a follow-up column, Pannapacker points to one more group of people who should go to graduate school: those who don’t expect to secure tenure-track faculty positions and can shake up the system as they cultivate technical skills, demand training that prepares them for the outside world, and “challenge the tyranny of the monograph” (Benton, “Just Don't Go, Part 2”).  I bet that Pannapacker, who in a later column hailed the intellectual excitement generated by digital humanities sessions at the 2010 MLA Conference, has the digital humanities in mind here (Pannapacker), but he also echoes the general call for graduate education to shape students for a broader range of careers.

The frustration and anxiety felt by graduate students and young scholars result not only from the poor job market, but also from the insularity and narrowness of many graduate programs. Several studies of graduate education, including Re-envisioning the PhD (2000), Ph.D.’s--Ten Years Later(1999), and The Responsive Ph.D.(2005),have reached the same basic conclusion: students need a broader, more interdisciplinary education, better preparation for teaching, service, and non-faculty positions, a faster track to a degree, and more engagement with real-world issues. According to Re-envisioning the Ph.D., universities should reform doctoral education by making interdisciplinary work more central, exposing students to technology, decreasing the amount of time it takes to complete a PhD, increasing the diversity of students, training students for a broader range of professional careers, and integrating a knowledge of “the global economy and environment” (Nyquist and Woodford 6). Likewise, English PhDs surveyed for Ph.D.’s--Ten Years Later recommended that graduate programs provide better preparation for teaching, more interdisciplinary training, and more collaborative experiences (Nerad and Cerny).

To encourage humanities graduate students to explore alternative careers, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation launched the Humanities at Work Program (1999-2006). This program disseminated information about non-academic careers, funded a postdoctoral careers program that placed humanities PhDs. in nonacademic internships, and supported practicum projects in which graduate students applied their humanities training to community initiatives such as oral history projects (Bennett; The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation). Critics charged that the Wilson Foundation’s efforts did not address the core problems with the humanities job market (oversupply of PhDs/ undersupply of good jobs) and naively assumed that a humanities graduate program has relevance beyond a faculty career.  As Louis Menand puts it, “there is no obvious efficiency in requiring people to devote 10 or more years to the mastery of a specialized area of scholarship on the theory that they are developing skills in research, or critical thinking, or communication” (Menand, “The Ph.D. Problem”).  Yet doctoral training does provide the skills and knowledge needed by many who pursue “alternative academic” careers. You learn valuable skills through doctoral training, including how to find, evaluate, organize and analyze information, write scholarly arguments, lead discussions, put together a lecture, comment on papers, and operate in academic culture.  Most of all, you develop and evince discipline and persistence as you labor through the long slog of a PhD.  Even those English PhDs who wind up in non-academic jobs see value in their training.  According to the PhDs—Ten Years Later study, 64% of English PhDs who ended up working in the Business, Government and Nonprofit sector said they would pursue a PhD in the same field if they knew what they knew now, compared to 84% of those with tenure or tenure track faculty positions and 88% of those in academic administration (Nerad and Cerny).

You may learn even more in graduate school by participating in digital humanities projects. Whereas humanities grad students typically work alone, only occasionally checking in with their advisor, those engaged in digital humanities projects learn from, contribute to, and are appreciated by a community that often includes fellow grad students, faculty, library and information technology staff, and others. Through training and work in the digital humanities, graduate students acquire the technical, managerial, and collaborative skills that can serve them in a range of careers, both faculty and non-faculty. Certainly the digital humanities is not the solution to the problems with graduate education. Not every humanities graduate student feels passionate about the potential of computing to advance teaching and research, and it is passion rather than despondency about the job market that should motivate someone to pursue a career in digital humanities.  Further, many universities lack the staff, funding, infrastructure or mandate to support digital humanities initiatives. Nevertheless, for an example of how graduate education in the humanities can become more collaborative, interdisciplinary, and versatile, reform advocates can look to the experiences of graduate students who participate in digital humanities projects. Indeed, leaders in the graduate education community are beginning to view the digital humanities as a promising model for improving graduate training.  For instance, Debra Stewart, president of the Council of Graduate Schools, recently gave a presentation in which she cited the digital humanities as a means of providing students with the hybrid knowledge and transferrable skills essential for the “knowledge economy” (Stewart).[2]

My own experience as a graduate student at Virginia in the 1990s speaks to value of digital humanities training. Although I had no intention of pursuing work with computers or in libraries when I started graduate school, I found myself in the right place at the right time, as Virginia was establishing an international reputation for itself in digital humanities through the pioneering work of the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, the Electronic Text Center, and other groups. Amidst the anxiety of graduate school, I found a refuge by working as an assistant at the Electronic Text Center (Etext Center), a place where I learned valuable skills, produced meaningful work, earned a modest income, and, most importantly, felt like I belonged to a community. When I first started at the Etext Center, I didn’t even know what control-alt-delete did.  Staff seemed to speak a mysterious techie language.  DTD? SGML? Tag? Perl? But David Seaman, the Etext Center’s director and an ABD in English, told me that lack of technical knowledge posed no barrier, since he believed it was easier to teach a humanist technical skills than vice versa. Within a few weeks I too was speaking geek speak. I learned SGML, HTML, image and text scanning, how to transcribe manuscripts, and even a little bit of Perl (thanks to the excellent teaching of Steve Ramsay).  With my friend and colleague Carolyn Fay, I marked up several collections of Civil War letters using the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI). David invited me and Carolyn to lead a session on marking up manuscript materials for his Rare Book School class and to author a guide to encoding handwritten materials, giving us the sense that we had developed expert knowledge. Whenever David read off another email from a grateful user of the Etext Center’s collection, I felt like I was doing work that mattered to the community. The education I received at the Etext Center was in many ways more valuable than what I got in any of my classes, as it brought my attention to the significance of textual representation and reignited the joy of inquiry that had drawn me to grad school in the first place.  For example, I found myself pondering the right way to describe the structure of an epistolary novel.

Beyond my own experience, I can cite many examples of humanities graduate students who have made vital contributions to digital humanities projects and in so doing transformed their own careers. A glance at the credits page for many digital humanities projects reveals the extent of the contributions made by graduate students, whether as project assistants or project managers. As Ken Price, a co-editor of the Whitman Archive, notes of graduate students with whom he collaborated, “While enriching and diversifying their record as they prepare, most often, for work as professors, they also provide themselves with skills and knowledge of information architecture that leave them open to other types of academic employment, employment that frequently pays better and has better job security than a tenure-line position in the humanities” (Price).  Price also observes that grad students engaged in digital humanities projects develop a greater understanding of scholarly publishing and alternatives to the monograph and enjoy the close collaboration with faculty and fellow graduate students. Graduate students who worked on the Whitman Archive have gone onto a range of careers, including as faculty, the director of a digital humanities center, and a senior manager in an academic information technology organization. Similarly, describing the collaborative work on text mining done for the NORA project, John Unsworth cites the vital contributions made by the nine graduate students who were part of the multi-university, multi-disciplinary team of seventeen people. Unsworth suggests that new models of graduate work will come out of computational approaches to humanities research:


You've got to have graduate students involved, because they have so much to contribute in actually carrying out certain parts of the research program, and by the same token they can make some of those parts their own, get their own publishing done, and build dissertations out of the raw materials in something like nora. They can be funded while doing it, too, and they have a completely different kind of working relationship with faculty than that provided by the tutorial model that still informs most graduate training in English. (Unsworth, “New Methods for Humanities Research”)


If one aim of graduate education is to produce scholars who can collaborate to solve complex problems, then the digital humanities illustrate a compelling way to accomplish this goal.

Given how young (relatively speaking) the field of digital humanities is and how many research problems remain to be solved, students have the opportunity to make vital contributions. For instance, students in Matthew Jockers’ Stanford course on “Literary Studies and the Digital Library” are innovating ways to analyze large text collections and have become so engaged in their work that most signed up to continue their work for two more quarters.  Students enjoyed collaborating across disciplines to develop new methods and produce work that has real impact.  As English PhD student Ryan Heuser commented, “this methodology and this level of cooperation are rarely seen in the humanities. It’s also revolutionary in the sense that we’re just a bunch of grad students and undergraduates, and in two quarters, we have built an entire corpus of novels and three separate ways of studying them” (“Stanford Students Use Digital Tools to Analyze Classic Texts”). In collaborative digital humanities work, students often find what drew them to graduate school in the first place: delight in figuring things out.  

III. The (Digital) Humanist as Librarian

So once you receive training in digital humanities, what career prospects are open to you?  As the essays in this collection suggest, humanities PhDs with a background in digital humanities work in a range of careers, including as faculty members, information technology professionals, editors, museum curators, academic administrators, web and media professionals, and officers at foundations or grant agencies. Although they will call upon their graduate education as they conduct research, write, and lead discussions, the work they do is more likely to be practical rather than theoretical, collaborative rather than solo, and focused not so much on writing books and essays as on producing grant applications and building tools, digital collections, web sites, or training programs. Pursuing a non-faculty position does not mean dooming yourself to a second-rate career. A study of English PhDs found that 88% of those who worked in academic administration and 87% who wound up in the Business, Government and Non-profit sectors were very or fairly satisfied with their employment, as were 87% of tenured and tenure-track faculty and 71% of non-tenure track faculty and academic staff (Nerad and Cerny).

Since my own career path led to work in the library, I will focus on the opportunities for digital humanities professionals in libraries. As the Internet revolution transforms how researchers access and make sense of information, libraries are grappling with an identity crisis: what is their role in a world here many people go to Google before the library catalog? What kind of skills and services can libraries offer to maintain their relevance? As academic libraries seek to embed themselves in research and teaching, support emerging forms of research (including digital humanities and other forms of digital scholarship), assist researchers overwhelmed by data, and help scholars disseminate their work, they are recognizing that they need to hire people with a range of skills, including teaching and research experience and technical knowledge. Indeed, libraries recognize that they may need to turn to professionals without library degrees to fill the demand for these skills. According to the Association of College and Research Libraries’ “2010 top ten trends in academic libraries,” transformations in higher education will demand that “librarians possess diverse skill sets,” which suggests that “[w]e may see an increasing number of non-MLS professionals in academic libraries with the skills needed to work in this changing environment”(ACRL Research Planning and Review Committee 287). As James Neal, Vice President for Information Services and University Librarian at Columbia University, observes, academic libraries are increasingly hiring people who lack a library degree but have advanced academic training, teaching experience, language expertise, and/or technical skills (Neal). Neal calls these people “feral librarians,” since they have not been enculturated into libraries through traditional training. Although feral implies wild and threatening (and change can be both), “feral librarians” can spark innovation by bringing fresh perspectives, key skills, and new expectations to librarianship. 

Digital humanists will likely be attractive candidates for new library positions, since they offer deep disciplinary knowledge and strong technical expertise, whether in metadata, programming, web design, networked communication, text analysis, visualization, or Geographic Information Systems. Indeed, many digital humanists have already worked for or with libraries, which have long offered key support to digital humanities projects.  For example, Nebraska’s Center for Digital Research in the Humanities (CDRH) is a joint initiative between the library and College of Arts & Sciences, and the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) is a “collaboration among the University of Maryland’s College of Arts and Humanities, Libraries, and Office of Information Technology” (Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities; Center for Digital Research in the Humanities). If the library is, as many have claimed, “the lab for the humanities,” it makes sense for those with expertise in finding, analyzing, manipulating, representing, and disseminating humanities data to play a key role helping to run the lab. Humanities PhDs are not trying to displace traditional librarians, but to augment them by bringing a different skillset and professional background. Several recent library job postings include “digital humanities” as part of the job description, including the Coordinator and Librarian for Humanities Collections at the University of Pennsylvania, Data Librarian for Social Sciences or Humanities at the University of New Mexico, Librarian for Digital Humanities Research at Yale, Humanities Librarian at Emory, and the head of the East Asian library at UCLA. (Several of these jobs require an MLS, while others prefer one.)

I am a digital humanist working in a library.[3] In 2000, two years before I finished my doctorate, I jumped at the opportunity to become a Digital Media Specialist at Rice University. I now serve as director of Fondren Library’s Digital Media Center, where I oversee the campus’s central multimedia production lab, provide training in digital storytelling and digital tools such as Zotero, research emerging technologies and their impact on teaching and scholarship, and contribute to digital library projects such as the Our Americas Project and the Travelers in the Middle East Archive.  Although it is thrilling to develop new scholarly digital resources and experiment with methods such as text analysis and visualization, my job focuses on service to all faculty, students and staff at Rice, some of whom are bewildered by how to do research in a digital environment. Thus I offer training and support to help scholars and students use digital resources and tools such as Zotero effectively, drawing on my own background as a researcher and teacher.

Often work in the digital humanities allows you to pursue a hybrid career, combining theory and practice, humanities and technology, librarianship and scholarship. As someone who typically rejects either/or in favor of both/and, I find this career path fulfilling. You morph, get exposed to a variety of problems and disciplinary approaches, and become nimble and flexible.  Melissa Terras inventories the various transformations that her colleagues in the digital humanities have gone through: “The Eng Lit PhD- turned publisher- turned usability expert. The trained and practicing Librarian – turned academic information seeking specialist. The archaeologist- turned museums and the web expert – turned usability expert. The computer-scientist turned-medical physicist – turned manuscript expert” (Terras). Digital humanists are the Transformers of the academy (not that we’re robots, but we are able to change form as the situation demands). Early in my career at Rice, I met with the university librarians from two prestigious research libraries.  They told me that they were thrilled to have PhDs working in positions like mine and that I would have a lot more fun and make more of a difference than I would as a faculty member. They were right. Because both my supervisor and my institution have been so supportive, I’ve been able to follow my interests, whether by launching a wiki focused on digital research tools, researching how American literature scholars view thematic digital research collections such as the Whitman Archive, or taking classes in documentary filmmaking and in social research methods. I have participated in conferences on digital libraries, digital humanities, educational technology, and new media, collaborated with colleagues across the library and the campus, and contributed to the university’s IT planning efforts. Although my library job does not provide tenure, it is more stable than a grant-funded position and offers some opportunities for advancement. Not having to pursue tenure means that I have more freedom to experiment (and less anxiety). When I decided to start a blog, I didn’t worry about whether it would count toward tenure—I just did it. I get to keep learning, whether that means trying out new tools or following trends in digital scholarship. Most of all, I’ve worked with colleagues to build a well-respected multimedia computing lab that has supported a wide range of innovative projects, from student films to digital collections.

In choosing to work in a library rather than pursue a tenure track job, I have made some sacrifices.  I miss teaching.  I miss planning a syllabus (which for me is kind of like making a Christmas wish list), guiding class discussions, forming bonds with students, even grading papers. I love doing research, but I end up doing most of my professional reading, writing and tinkering in the wee hours of the morning before I go to work, since I usually don’t have time for such activities as part of my regular duties and feel a little guilty doing this work during my “paid time.” (Yes, research has become my hobby.) Sometimes I long to throw aside administrative and managerial responsibilities and just think and write, although no faculty position is free of such duties, either.  Occasionally my pride has been injured and I have felt frustrated by institutional and cultural barriers. Sometimes I feel like an awkward pre-teen, like I don’t quite fit in anywhere.

Indeed, humanities PhDs may face some resistance for taking library positions without having a library degree, particularly if they call themselves “librarians.”  Three anecdotes illustrate this point. When I first arrived at the university, I was invited to join the Librarians’ Assembly (LA), which represents Rice’s professional librarians. Several months later I was silently dropped from the group.  When I asked the chair of the LA for an explanation, I was told that only people with an MLS were eligible for membership. I pointed out that the group’s guidelines stated that people with advanced degrees and library experience also qualified.  With the support of the University Librarian, who like me was an English PhD without a library degree, I was reinstated, but the experience made me feel like an interloper.  I can understand why librarians want to preserve the importance of professional training, but I also believe that focusing solely on a degree is limiting and ignores libraries’ need for a range of professional expertise, some of which may not come with an MLS. Professional librarianship at Rice carries with it benefits such as a path to promotion through the Career Advancement Program (a quasi-tenure system that does not provide permanent employment or faculty status), a bonus for reaching the next professional rank, eight “study days” to keep up with trends in librarianship, and participation in self-governance (Rice University, “Rules and Procedures for Ranked Professional Librarians of Rice University”). If I am performing professional work, shouldn’t I have the same rights and responsibilities as other professionals in the organization?[4] From the perspective of many faculty members with whom I work, my PhD holds more weight than an MLS. Several faculty members have told me that they appreciate my humanities background, since I have experience with research and teaching and thus can more quickly understand their needs. I should emphasize that when I interviewed for my job, my interviewers viewed my graduate training in the humanities as an asset, encouraged me to complete my PhD and seemed not to object to my lack of a library degree. The atmosphere at my library is quite collegial, and there are real efforts to bring together the community through social events and professional development opportunities. The point of contention that I faced was not whether people without library degrees should work in the library, but whether they should be considered librarians.  I’ve since been elected to the Librarians’ Assembly executive committee and received the library’s Shapiro Library Staff Innovation Award, so perhaps I needed to prove myself before being fully accepted into library culture.

Nevertheless, some librarians remain protective of the librarian label.  In a recent article about academic leaders’ views toward libraries, Barbara Fister called Daniel Greenstein, formerly University Librarian and Executive Director of the California Digital Library, a “librarian” (Fister). Wrong!  When a reader commented that “Dan Greenstein is not a librarian and does not have an MLIS,” Library Journal added a correction: The article originally described Daniel Greenstein as a librarian, implying that he holds a Masters in Library or Information Science. He holds a DPhil in Social Studies from Oxford University and a BA and MA in American History from the University of Pennsylvania” (Fister).  However, based on his professional expertise and contributions, I think Greenstein is a librarian.  He founded the Arts and Humanities Data Service (AHDS), worked as director of the Digital Library Federation, co-wrote The Digital Library: A Biography, and serves as adjunct faculty at UC Berkeley’s School of Information.  Although Greenstein has been criticized for not having an MLS, the search committee did not see that as an issue when he was appointed University Librarian for the California Digital Library: “They recognize that leadership in a library doesn't necessarily require a library degree” (“Dan Greenstein: University of California, Ca Digital Library Orchestrating Digital Worlds”). Ultimately what you do matters more than what you are called, although your title may influence how you are seen by the community and what you are empowered to do. In any case, as a commenter on a recent blog post acknowledges, “The general public calls every adult that works in a library a librarian,” not knowing to make distinctions based on education (Deschamps). Likewise, you don’t have to have a library degree to think of yourself as a librarian; according to the Census Bureau, about 178,000 people call themselves librarians, but only around 105,000 have received a master’s or doctorate degree in the field (Davis). 

The debate about the CLIR Postdoctoral Fellows programs further demonstrates some librarians’ anxieties about alternative routes to professional library jobs.  In 2003, the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) launched a program to place new humanities PhDs. in one or two year fellowships with academic libraries, aiming to prepare “a new generation of librarians and scholars for work at the intersections of scholarship, teaching and librarianship in the emerging research environment” (Council on Library and Information Resources).  In the summer before their fellowships begin, fellows attend a two-week seminar to become immersed in librarianship, which is followed by a two-day seminar in the winter.  Fellows work on a variety of special projects, from contributing to information fluency initiatives to managing digital collections. When the program was announced, it drew criticism from library school faculty, who thought that it diminished the value of the library degree, and librarians, who felt that job opportunities for trained librarians were being threatened (Bell; Berry III).  Both groups seemed to fear that this was merely a jobs program for unemployed PhDs who lacked a real commitment to librarianship and wanted a place to “rest until they get another job,” as one library school dean put it (Berry III).  Yet the leaders of academic libraries generally seem to support the program, viewing it as a way of bringing new talent into libraries and generating long-term support for libraries from the fellows, some of whom later become faculty.  Indeed, the fears that the library degree would become valueless or that trained librarians would see their jobs vanish have turned out to be baseless. According to recent survey completed by 22 of 29 CLIR postdocs, fewer than half of the program’s alumni continue to work in academic libraries, and some of those people have gone on to get MLS degrees (Brunner). Other alumni now hold faculty positions but praise the program for deepening their knowledge of grant-writing, scholarly communication, intellectual property and digital publishing (Brunner). Despite some problems with defining the role of the fellows on campus, the program has succeeded by producing new leaders who understand the transformations underway in libraries and have pushed forward library projects (Brunner). Whether alumni become librarians or faculty or end up in another career, the experience seems to have made participants passionate advocates for the library and for new models of scholarship.  As one former fellow commented, she is now “committed to fostering strong collaborations between faculty and librarians/archivists toward re-shaping the idea of scholarship in the academy” (Hswe). Despite the seeming challenge to the professional identity, the goal of bringing PhDs into libraries is not supplant librarians, but to build “symbiotic relationships between academic libraries and scholars”(Brunner).

So should humanities PhDs who wish to work in a library get a library degree? An MLS certainly does have value. By getting a library degree, you not only develop useful skills such as managing collections, creating metadata, and overseeing digitization projects, but you also attain professional certification and a professional network (Danley).  However, several library directors have told me not to bother with getting a library degree, since my PhD and work experience more than prepared me for my position—but they did suggest getting an MBA.  Although most PhDs working in libraries do have library degrees, a significant minority (15.5%, according to a 2006 study) have carved out successful careers without one (Lindquist and Gilman). Ultimately whether to get a degree depends on the job that you want to pursue and whether your professional experience could compensate for the lack of an MLS. Although most job postings for professional librarians still require MLS degrees, positions in archives, special collections, and outreach are less likely to have such a requirement, as are those in emerging areas such as digital libraries, information technology, Geographic Information Systems, user studies, and scholarly communication (Lindquist and Gilman). Some academic libraries aim for flexibility in hiring by requiring “ALA-accredited MLIS or equivalent” (Ad Hoc Task Force on Recruitment & Retention Issues). If you do want to pursue a library degree and prefer the flexibility of a distance education program (whether 100% online or mostly online), many library schools offer that option (American Library Association, “Education for Librarianship”).[5] Combining the subject knowledge represented by your PhD with the technical training that a MLS provides will likely make you an attractive candidate on the library job market, although some search committees may think that you are overqualified or a “prima donna” (ACRL).[6]

IV. Advice for Humanities PhDs Considering Alternative Academic Careers

Based on my experiences working as a librarian, I offer the following advice to humanities grad students contemplating other non-faculty positions, as well as to people just entering alternative academic positions in the digital humanities.

1. Get past the shame.

I recently met with an English grad student at Rice who was exploring alternatives to a tenure track career. Although she was comfortable with not following the faculty route, she said that many of her fellow grad students felt ashamed to even consider another career.  For instance, when English graduate students attend seminars on non-academic jobs, they tend to sit by themselves and pretend like they are not really there, as if considering another career is a failure. If you can achieve personal and professional satisfaction by pursuing another career, why box yourself in? Visit one of the web sites that makes humanities grad students aware of non-academic career options, such as Beyond Academe, SellOut, Versatile PhD, or the wrk4us listserv.

2. Learn about other options.

You can feel trapped by graduate school, as if it is an assembly line that ends in one of two destinations: faculty position or reject barrel. But you can steer your own career. Find out what you can do with a humanities PhD.  Invite someone who has a job you might enjoy out for coffee so that you can learn about his or her career and make a useful contact.  If you are curious about what digital humanities folks do during the course of a day, read some of the blog posts that are part of the Day of Digital Humanities (“Day in the Life of the Digital Humanities 2010”).

3. Follow your curiosity.

Rather than single-mindedly focusing on your dissertation, pursue a range of interests.  Often those interests will not only make you a more balanced, happy person, but they will bring new perspectives to your academic work. For example, while working at the Electronic Text Center, I grew interested in textual editing, so I audited a course on the topic, even though I had completed my coursework and was supposed to be well into the dissertation phase of my PhD. For my class project to create an online critical edition of a section from Donald Grant Mitchell’s Reveries of a Bachelor, I traveled to the Beinecke Library to study their Mitchell collection and became intrigued by a collection of fan letters to Mitchell.  My analysis of this collection formed the basis of my favorite dissertation chapter, which later appeared in revised form in the journal Book History. The online edition that I created (with help from David Seaman, who did the Perl programming) both developed and demonstrated my editing and text encoding skills.

4. Develop your skills.

When I was beginning graduate school in English, my husband met a woman who had recently completed a PhD from my program.  She passed on some hard-won advice: develop your skills so that you have job options.  I followed this advice perhaps too enthusiastically, working at the Writing Center, Electronic Text Center, as a research assistant at the Darden School of Business, and for the online journal Postmodern Culture.  With each job, I not only learned important skills and gathered more experience for my resume, but I also learned more about my own capabilities and interests.  When I worked as a research assistant at Darden, for example, I realized that I could be just as engaged studying business ethics or environmental entrepreneurship as literature or cultural history.  I just like digging into a topic and synthesizing what I have learned.  My job as managing editor at Postmodern Culture demystified the publishing process, sharpened my editorial skills, and helped me develop a professional persona as I communicated with authors, editors, and reviewers. Taking these jobs probably delayed me finishing my PhD, but they also introduced me to alternatives to a tenure track job, built my confidence, and gave me technical, managerial, and communication skills valuable in the marketplace.

5. Build a community on and beyond campus.

Graduate school can be isolating, but I got through thanks to the support of others: my husband, who gave me love and good counsel; my dissertation group, which not only offered me helpful feedback on my dissertation but also friendship; and my job at the Etext Center, which provided structure, community, and a sense of purpose.

Given that one of the aims of the digital humanities is explore networked scholarship, aspiring digital humanists should establish a presence online.  Follow digital humanities folks on Twitter, and tweet, yourself.[7] You can learn about what’s going on in the community, establish connections, and build your reputation. Perhaps most importantly, you gain an understanding of what social media means for scholarship.  Share your ideas by making them openly accessible through your university’s institutional repository or a disciplinary repository such as SSRN. Read blogs, comment on them, and start one up yourself.  I was pretty invisible in the digital humanities community until I launched a blog called “Digital Scholarship in the Humanities.”  To my surprise, people actually read the blog, thanks to some much-appreciated shout-outs from Dan Cohen, Steve Ramsay, and others. Participating the network of digital humanists can be good for your career, leading to speaking and writing invitations, committee appointments, and even job inquiries. But it’s also, in my view, the point of an academic career: to share ideas, understand other perspectives, and reach beyond the ivory tower.

Once you land a job as a digital humanist, you should continue to develop your skills and participate in a professional network.  You also need to:

1. Make known your unique skills.

Since “digital humanist” and “digital librarian” are still not well-known roles on college campuses, you cannot assume that people will come to you.  You need to go to them and let them know what you can offer. As an introvert, I feel a little sick to my stomach at the thought of having to sell myself, but I am beginning to figure out how to do this in a natural way.  Participate in the life of the university. Go to lectures and stick around for the reception afterwards. Search the university’s web site for researchers and instructors who might have similar interests, then invite them to lunch or coffee.  Be present on the web yourself. Organize special events that showcase what your group can do.  Send story suggestions to the folks in campus media. Cultivate your relationships with possible collaborators, such as the historian with a passionate interest in public history, the computer scientist who works in text mining, or the graduate student who wants to get engaged with digital projects.

2.  Be flexible

Sometimes you may not get exactly what you want, but you can still advance your goals. I long to teach, ideally semester-long courses in the English department. Although the English department insists that teaching is reserved for tenure-track faculty, I still have been able to do some teaching, including a three-credit course called “The Documentary Across Media” that was sponsored by one of Rice’s residential colleges. Since I have both an English and library background, faculty were eager to involve me in helping grad students learn how to do research, so I teamed up with the librarian for English to organize workshops on research skills and professional issues such as academic publishing.  Likewise, I’ve collaborated with Communication instructors to offer a series of in-class workshops on digital storytelling, helping to integrate multimedia into the curriculum. 

V. Recommendations for the Institutional Decision Makers

Many PhDs with a background in digital humanities have thrived, whether as leaders of digital humanities centers, librarians, or faculty members.  However, to enable them and succeeding generations to shape satisfying careers and have an even greater impact, humanities departments, academic administrators, professional organizations, and funders need to make some changes to the culture and structure of professional education and academic work.

1. Get past obstacles based on status.

In many ways, academia is a caste system (Altbach). Faculty are the Brahmins, but even within the faculty there are distinctions based on tenure status, seniority, reputation, and so forth. Staff serve the faculty and students, but have their own hierarchies. Libraries, for instance, distinguish between professionals and paraprofessionals. At some libraries, a tenure system further differentiates librarians by rank and reflects the profession’s desire to be considered similar to faculty, with its own commitment to research, teaching, and service.  Of course, such hierarchical systems serve a purpose, providing a path to advancement, recognition for achievements, validation of professional authority, and access to resources.  But they can also become too rigid, rewarding people for past success rather than for current efforts, excluding those who don’t have a “valid” background, and generating anxiety for those striving to secure their place within the system. People like me—who have doctorates but work in academic support groups such as the library—don’t quite fit into the hierarchies.  We aren’t faculty, but we aren’t exactly librarians either.  Yet we can help to push forward collaborations that will, I hope, demonstrate that all who contribute deserve respect, credit, and opportunities to advance.

My university tends to be collegial.  I’ve teamed up with a faculty member on a major grant and have been invited to lunch by a dean to talk about education and XML. However, I have run into barriers because I lack faculty status. When I asked the English department if I might teach courses such as digital humanities or digital storytelling, I was told that the dean did not want non-tenure track faculty teaching. (When I asked the dean about this, he said he didn’t want non-tenure track instructors teaching introductory courses, but had no problem with them teaching some courses.) Likewise, when I inquired about getting one the university’s research centers to sponsor a digital humanities working group, I received general support for the idea, but was informed that I would need to find a faculty member to submit the proposal and lead the initiative.  I got the same answer when I invited the center to co-sponsor a lecture by a leading digital historian—good idea, keep us posted, but a faculty member needs to make the request. I don’t mean to inventory personal affronts (told from my own admittedly biased perspective), but to offer an honest discussion of some of the barriers that people in positions like mine may face as they try to initiate change. The research centers have generally been supportive, collaborating with the library on digital scholarship initiatives and treating both faculty and non-faculty with respect. I realize there may be good reasons for policies that require faculty to lead initiatives.  Research centers exist principally to promote faculty research; in fact, funding guidelines may be written so that faculty must assume responsibility for projects sponsored by the center. Faculty have the reputation and connections to attract others to collaborative initiatives. Students deserve to be taught by qualified professionals (although I think I am one), and the university should not exploit people who get paid far less than tenure-track instructors. Removing all hierarchies isn’t practical and may not be wise given the importance of faculty self-governance and academic freedom. However, at least the system can be more flexible. Good ideas can originate from beyond the faculty ranks, so there should be ways to facilitate this exchange, such as opportunities for qualified non-faculty to teach courses, participate in research seminars, and even apply for funding for campus-based pedagogical or research projects. Many research centers aim to facilitate interdisciplinarity by fostering dialog across disciplines and between faculty and grad students, but staff should also be included in the mix, particularly if they can offer unique expertise on the topic. Staff can not only serve, but also lead, if given the opportunity.

I have seen that if a set of skills is unique enough and in demand, the academy may be willing to open itself up a bit.  My husband, Rice’s director of sustainability (a position based in Facilities and Engineering), is one of the university’s leading experts on environmental sustainability.  Although he has a master degree in urban and environmental planning rather than a Ph.D., he serves as associate director of the Center for the Study of Environment and Society, co-teaches courses on sustainability, co-chaired a major conference on the future of cities, is a professor in the practice of environmental studies of sociology, and leads many of the university’s environmental initiatives.  The operative word is “co-“; since he does not have a PhD and is not faculty, he is not able to assume full responsibility for classes or for overseeing a center.  However, he is having a significant impact on the university because he collaborates so well with faculty, students, administrators, and community members.  Further, he is knowledgeable, capable and collegial, can see across (and is not restrained by) disciplinary boundaries, has a deep understanding of the environmental issues facing the university, and knows how to connect the right people with each other.  He also has the advantage of coming to the university at a time when interest in sustainability has been exploding, thanks to growing student engagement and the university’s own commitment to reducing its environmental impact. I don’t see the same degree of interest—yet—in digital humanities as in environmental sustainability, but I keep his example in mind when I’m feeling constrained by academic status.

2. Make graduate students aware of alternative academic and non-academic careers.

Alternative academic careers are by no means a new trend.  Humanities PhDs have historically taken jobs in academic administration, archives[8], libraries, information technology groups, academic publishing, professional organizations, scholarly editing, and so forth. But the core expectation is that a humanities graduate student is bound for a position as a tenure-track faculty member, even though the reality often does not match that assumption.  In the sciences, by contrast, graduate students know that they can find jobs not only as faculty members, but also working as researchers for industry or in governmental labs, even if their first intention is to land a tenure-track job.

Graduate programs should make students aware of the variety of opportunities open to them, celebrate all employment successes, and offer training and mentoring for those interested in alternate tracks. I recall my graduate program trumpeting every new tenure-track appointment, but saying nothing about those who landed good alternative-academic or non-academic positions. Indeed, the department’s web page today inventories every university where a recent graduate landed an assistant professorship, but there is no word about those who finished their PhDs and have gone onto successful careers outside of the faculty track, such as the managing editor of a major editorial project, the director of a university Women’s Center, and the director of a digital scholarship center, just to name a few (Department of English at the University of Virginia).[9] Perhaps that’s a wise decision from a PR perspective, since potential candidates for graduate study want reassurance that they can get a tenure track job by going to UVA.  But such an approach does nothing for morale or for making students aware of other options.[10] Likewise, career counseling should focus not just on preparing students for the faculty job market, but for developing and marketing themselves for other types of careers. Mentoring programs that link students to professionals with PhDs would help students learn about other opportunities and establish professional networks. If you’re lucky (as I was), faculty advisors will support you in your decision to pursue an alternative academic career; if you’re not, you may feel like you are letting your advisor—and yourself—down.

3. Enhance educational opportunities for aspiring digital humanists

How should one acquire the skills necessary to pursue an alternative academic career in the digital humanities?  I and most of my digital humanities colleagues who came of age in the 1990s learned on the job, which gave us a practical context for developing skills (you learned because you had to), immersed us in collaborative work, and gave us the satisfaction of producing scholarship that had public visibility and significance. I would argue that any DH program should include a requirement that students learn by doing, such as through a practicum or an internship, but unfortunately not everyone is at an institution that offers such opportunities. I know, and I’ve heard my compatriots say, that formal training would have kept us from making mistakes, allowed us to work more efficiently, and given us a broader way of thinking about our work and its possibilities.  I would even now benefit from training in project management, programming, text analysis, metadata creation, digital curation, statistics, visualization, geospatial scholarship, video production, and web design. In addition to receiving practical training, I believe that aspiring digital humanists should understand key issues in the field. Although I didn’t take any for-credit courses on digital humanities in graduate school, I attended many sessions of “’Is Humanities Computing an Academic Discipline?’ An Interdisciplinary Seminar,” which brought experts in digital humanities such as Willard McCarty, Geoffrey Rockwell, Susan Hockey and Lou Burnard to discuss the significance of humanities computing and explore whether Virginia should set up a degree program (Nowviskie and Unsworth). The seminar convinced me that practical training should be complemented by more theoretical and self-reflexive analysis of digital humanities, its purposes, and methods. In addition, digital humanists need a deep understanding of the methods and problems in their “home” humanities discipline.[11]

Already there are several options for those wishing to pursue training in digital humanities, including degree programs, coursework, workshops and institutes, unconferences, and internships.  If you are committed to a DH career, you may wish to enroll at an institution that offers a graduate degree in digital humanities or digital arts and culture, such as Kings College London, Georgia Tech, the University of Alberta, or the University of Glasgow.[12] But if you want to keep your options open, you may decide to go to a university that is strong both in your academic discipline and in the digital humanities, such as Virginia, Nebraska, Maryland, Stanford, the University of Victoria, or George Mason.  Such universities may offer coursework in digital humanities, but more importantly they would provide graduate students the opportunity to participate in cutting-edge digital projects.

In addition, the digital humanities community offers intensive workshops focused on particular methods or skills. For example, the NEH Institutes for Advanced Topics in Digital Humanities provide advanced graduate students and scholars the opportunity to explore topics such as advanced text encoding, game studies, programming, high performance computing, computer simulations, or digital publishing. At the University of Victoria’s Digital Humanities Summer Institute (DHSI), participants take training workshops that focus on practical skills such as fundamentals of digitization, data analysis, Geographic Information Systems, and project management (Meloni, “Reporting from 'Academic Summer Camp': the Digital Humanities Summer Institute”).  Likewise, THATCamps, which are now held around the world, offer participants the opportunity to learn by actively constructing knowledge in hackfests and seminar sessions (“THATCamp”). Some THAT Camps also sponsor “BootCamps,” workshops that take place the day before THATCamp begins and focus on topics such as web design, user design, mapping, scholarly communication, and particular technologies such as WordPress or Omeka (“Plan a BootCamp”). As regional digital humanities networks such as DH SoCal emerge, we may see local groups coordinating professional development opportunities (“DHSoCal”). Not only do programs like the NEH Institutes, DHSI, and THATCamp allow participants to develop new skills, but they also build community, seed collaborations, and foster new projects.

Although there are already excellent training opportunities in the digital humanities, I think the community can go further in broadening access to digital humanities education, offering more flexible options for acquiring credentials, and providing opportunities to participate in research communities. I propose:

1. Exposing humanities graduate students to fundamentals of digital humanities through a methods course.

What it means to do research in the humanities is changing as a result of digital collections such as Google Books, new methods of analysis such as text mining and geospatial scholarship, and electronic publishing. To prepare students to produce and disseminate research in the digital environment, PhD granting institutions should offer an interdisciplinary methods course in digital humanities—or, at the very least, provide a module on digital humanities as part of an existing methods course.  If universities lack faculty to teach such courses, departments can turn to qualified librarians, IT professionals, research staff, or multidisciplinary teams.

2. Providing internship opportunities.

By serving internships, graduate students are immersed in real-world problems, get an “insider’s view” of a profession, reflect on their own graduate training and professional possibilities, gain useful skills, and participate in a community beyond their graduate program (“Graduate Students & Internships”).  Humanities departments should collaborate with career centers to provide more opportunities for graduate students to hold internships in the digital humanities (and perhaps award funding or course credit for completing these internships). As one possible model, the community can look to the IMLS-funded iSchools and Digital Humanities program that enables students at three leading information schools to intern at three top digital humanities centers (“About”).  Why not expand this program from information schools to humanities departments?

3. Holding a doctoral consortium at the annual Digital Humanities conference.

To enable graduate students who are working in the digital humanities to get feedback on their work and connect with other researchers, the digital humanities community should follow the lead of the computer science community and consider sponsoring an annual doctoral consortium in conjunction with the annual Digital Humanities conference.[13] For example, the Joint Conference on Digital Libraries doctoral consortium convenes an international group of doctoral students who are just beginning work on their dissertations (“Doctoral Consortium”). Students present their work to a panel of experts, who offer recommendations on the dissertation project as well as more general professional advice.

4. Defining elements of a digital humanities curriculum.

Recently the Humanist listserv featured a discussion of the minimal skills for a digital humanist.  While some argued that generating a skills list would narrow the discipline and orient it towards professional rather than academic preparation, I believe that coming to a loose consensus about key knowledge and skills will help the discipline continue to define itself and build common ground (“23.760 skills for humanities computing”).  The community can develop a flexible, dynamic “core curriculum” (or checklist) that aspiring digital humanists can use to plan their education, graduate programs can draw from in building their own curricula, and experienced digital humanists can employ to identify gaps in knowledge.[14] Rather than narrowing the discipline, the curriculum should serve as a starting point, and it should evolve to incorporate emerging specialties and new knowledge. This curriculum can provide the basis for a series of free, customizable, open access modules on important theories, skills, methods, projects, and problems in the digital humanities.[15]  These web-based modules could be used in semester-long courses, workshops, or by mid-career scholars (and others) who want to enhance their skills.[16]

5. Launching a flexible certificate program in digital humanities.

The digital humanities community should offer an advanced certificate in digital humanities that would allow participants to acquire essential skills and professional validation in a flexible way.[17] Such a program might be especially attractive to those who have a strong interest in digital humanities but do not have opportunities to participate in DH projects at their home institutions. Since those who might be interested in such a program live all over the world and are typically already engaged in graduate study or professional careers, the graduate certificate program should be offered mainly online, although there should be occasional face-to-face meetings to build community and promote work on collaborative capstone projects. Already online certification programs are offered for areas such as digital curation (University of Arizona School of Information Resources and Library Sciences); digital libraries (School of Information Studies, Syracuse University); and GIS (The Johns Hopkins University Office of Advanced Academic Programs). The digital humanities seem ripe for such a program as well. Perhaps this program could be offered through collaboration between a digital humanities program and an information science school.  Many information schools already have experience administering distance learning programs and professional certificates, as well as growing expertise in digital humanities.  Of course, there would be administrative hurdles to clear, but such a program could build on existing collaborations such as the iSchool-Digital Humanities Center Partnership (Conway et al.). Alternatively, leading digital humanities departments (and possibly I-schools) could collaborate to offer a multi-institutional certificate program that would reflect the strengths of different institutions, such as text mining at Stanford and UIUC, application development at CHNM, and digital curation and preservation at Maryland.[18]

6. Support alternatives to the traditional dissertation monograph.

By writing a dissertation, graduate students learn how to do scholarly research and craft a coherent scholarly argument, produce visible proof of their expertise, and often lay the groundwork for their first book.  But for researchers interested in digital humanities and/or an alternative academic career, a traditional dissertation monograph may not provide the best preparation or credential.  Graduate programs should support alternatives to the traditional dissertation, such as an electronic edition, collaborative project like a participatory community history site, a tool and accompanying essay, or a suite of interactive, multimedia essays.  Recently MLA President Sidonie Smith articulated her support for this idea, arguing that re-imagining the dissertation would “better prepare our graduate students to navigate a scholarly environment in which the modes of production are increasingly collaborative, the vehicles of scholarly dissemination increasingly interactive, the circulation of knowledge more openly accessible, and the audiences for which we compose purposefully varied” (Smith).

7. Provide more postdoctoral fellowships in the digital humanities.

In the sciences, the typical route to a research career requires holding a least one postdoctoral fellowship.  Science postdocs often assist the supervising faculty member in running the lab, thus acquiring skills in managing research and mentoring students as well as deepening their own research profile.  In the humanities, there seem to be fewer postdocs, and most of these focus on individual research or on teaching rather than on collaborative research.[19]  Digital humanities centers, libraries, and other organizations should sponsor postdoctoral fellowships that allow junior researchers to help run collaborative projects and learn advanced skills. However, the community should avoid problems that have afflicted some science postdocs, such as low pay and failure to receive useful feedback from supervisors. The digital humanities community can look to recommendations provided by the National Postdoctoral Association, which works to improve the situation of postdocs in the US and defines core competencies that postdocs should seek (“National Postdoctoral Association”).

8.  Provide long-term professional opportunities for digital humanists by establishing stable research staff positions.

To build and maintain the cyberinfrastructure to support digital scholarship in the humanities, skilled research staff are needed (American Council of Learned Societies).  But translating that need into actual jobs will require support from universities, grant agencies, and foundations. Participants in the CLIR postdoctoral program articulated a concern that I’ve heard expressed by another person interested in a career in the digital humanities: What next? (Brunner). What are the opportunities for professional advancement in digital humanities? Many agree about the need to reform the evaluation process for tenure so that faculty can win credit and advance based on their digital scholarship—but what about creating a path to advancement for professionals who have opted out of the faculty track and are working in alternative academic careers, doing the planning, development, and project management work that is essential to digital humanities scholarship? As Tom Scheinfeldt argues, “With the emergence of the new digital humanities, we need some new employment models” (Scheinfeldt, “Making It Count”). Scheinfeldt calls for a “third way,” one that values research but is not part of the tenure system. As “Managing Director of the Center for History & New Media” and “Research Assistant Professor,” Scheinfeldt has a “third way” position.[20] Although this kind of position lacks the security of tenure, it also offers more freedom to collaborate, focus on research, experiment, and manage one’s own professional development. Such a position looks attractive to me, since it would give formal recognition to research as part of my professional portfolio. For digital humanists who work in libraries, perhaps there could be opportunities for joint appointments with a humanities department or research center. What would it take to create more “third way” positions?

Initially I thought that the “research scientist” role common in the sciences might provide one model for the digital humanities professional, but I am troubled by the low status and job insecurity that many in these positions face. Although titles given to research staff vary from university to university, Rice University employs research faculty, who are known as “Faculty Fellow, Senior Faculty Fellow, and Distinguished Faculty Fellow” depending on seniority, as well as “research support” staff such as research scientists and research technicians (Rice University, “Research Faculty”; Rice University, “Research Positions”). Research faculty and staff typically must win external funding for their positions, lack tenure, do not teach (although some may serve as dissertation advisors), and often hold a lower status in the university. According to a 1994 study of non-faculty soft-money astronomers, “they are often perceived as being of lesser quality and importance than their faculty counterparts,” even though they make equal contributions in terms of research productivity and professional service and contribute valuable organizational and managerial expertise (Cardelli).  Not surprisingly, morale among non-faculty astronomers was low.  Similarly, in the life sciences, “the staff scientist positions that have evolved often pay little more than a senior-postdoc position and offer little job security,” as well as failing to provide much research autonomy (Stephan). Perhaps the professional research staff track is still appropriate for many digital humanities professionals, but the community should make sure that they enjoy respect, fair pay, and opportunities for advancement.

VI. Professionalize?!

How can we come together as a community to advance the goals I’ve outlined above? A variety of approaches will likely be needed, including garnering the support of academic administrators such as deans, library directors, and provosts; teaming up with scholarly organizations such as AHA and the MLA to address issues such as evaluating digital scholarship; and working with grant agencies such as the NEH and Mellon Foundation to fund professional development programs. Many of these efforts are already underway. But perhaps an overarching strategy is to strengthen professional organizations in the digital humanities and orient them toward these goals. A professional organization can promote professional education, advance the profession’s status, foster communication among members, research and disseminate understanding of issues and innovations important to the profession, nurture young professionals, recognize and celebrate success, and define community standards and best practices.[21] Some professional associations focus on establishing boundaries and defining who “counts” as a professional, reflecting their origins as part of the shift toward professionalization in the nineteenth century. Perhaps professional associations in the digital humanities can reflect a contemporary notion of the professional as one who builds knowledge through collaboration, participates in professional networks, and develops new skills to confront emerging challenges.

Whereas the MLA represents language and literature scholars and the American Historical Association (AHA) brings together historians, no single group represents digital humanists, who affiliate with different disciplines and professions. However, the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations (ADHO) already serves as a sort of umbrella organization for the digital humanities, linking together the Association for Literary and Linguistic Computing (ALLC), the Association for Computers in the Humanities (ACH), and The Society for Digital Humanities / Société pour l'étude des médias interactifs (SDH-SEMI), so it might be the appropriate group to undertake these efforts. In addition, perhaps centerNet, a coalition of digital humanities centers, can promote professionalization, although I think the effort should extend beyond centers. ADHO has been criticized for focusing too much on text encoding, so it should continue to reach out to different areas of the digital humanities community, such as scholars in media and software studies, mapping, and digital rhetoric.[22] Perhaps ADHO can also build relationships with networked communities such as the Digital Classicists, Digital Americanists, and Digital Medievalists and professional associations such as the AHA, Association of Internet Researchers, Society for Cinema & Media Studies, the New Media Consortium, the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC), and Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).

In suggesting further professionalization as one way to advance the digital humanities, I am conscious of an irony: I have been frustrated by the defensiveness of the library profession, even as I respect how the American Library Association (ALA) promotes librarianship and fights for important causes such as privacy, intellectual freedom, diversity, net neutrality, and a balanced approach to copyright. Although I think digital humanities groups like ADHO and ACH can learn from long-established organizations such as the American Library Association, they should not try to imitate them, since there are important differences in scale, history, mission, and priorities. Whereas the ACH[23] was founded in 1978, the ALA started in 1876, so it has had a hundred-year head start in developing as a professional association (although it may be constrained by that history as well). The ALA pursues a broad mission “To provide leadership for the development, promotion, and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all” (American Library Association, “Mission & Priorities”).  In contrast, the ACH embraces a more focused mission “to encourage by suitable means the appropriate uses of computers and related technologies in the study of humanistic subjects” by sponsoring conferences and “otherwise facilitating contacts and discussion among scholars” (Association for Computers and the Humanities). While the ACH has fewer than 200 members (“ACH Membership Database”), the ALA boasts over 62,000 members, including public librarians, academic librarians, school librarians, vendors, library support staff, and library school students, so it can call on a number of prospective volunteers (“American Library Association”).  Although the ACH is an all-volunteer organization, the ALA has approximately 300 staff members, draws from a budget of over $33 million, and has eleven divisions focused on different areas of librarianship, such as school librarians, collection development librarians, and college and research libraries. The point, then, is not for ACH or any other digital humanities organization to become like the ALA, but to understand how other professional associations have developed, expand its own mission, and more energetically promote education, professional standards, and a professional identity.

Here are some opportunities I see for ADHO or a similar organization to further develop the professional identity of the digital humanities:

Education, mentorship and certification

Traditionally professional associations have played a crucial role in preparing their members for careers and providing credentials. As Robert Martin observes, professional education defines “both the profession and the professional” by determining what professionals need to know and supporting programs that cultivate such knowledge (Martin 545).  For example, whereas the American Library Association, with the support of the Carnegie Foundation, actively shaped the education of librarians in the early twentieth century by developing standards for professional education, the Society of American Archivists failed to establish guidelines for archival training until the 1970s, setting the profession behind (Martin). Perhaps ADHO can play a more central role in promoting professional education in the digital humanities. For example, ADHO could establish an online clearinghouse of digital humanities training opportunities, including formal degree programs, workshops and institutes, and internship opportunities. The ACH already has a mentoring program that offers support to graduate students and junior scholars, mainly at the annual Digital Humanities conference; perhaps this can be expanded to become a publicly visible network of established professionals who are willing to act as advisors.[24] As I’ve already suggested, ADHO could bring the community together to outline the elements of a digital humanities curriculum. Perhaps ADHO could even accredit programs, as the NMC plans to do for new media programs (NMC).

Best practices for credit and intellectual property

As Bethany Nowviskie observes, differences in status among members of project teams can mean that faculty largely control and take credit for collaborative digital scholarship, undermining trust and derailing projects (Nowviskie). Furthermore, universities can claim intellectual property rights over the project. Project teams should engage in open conversations about responsibilities, credit and intellectual property and value the contributions of all. Perhaps the digital humanities community can craft best practices for managing collaborations, assigning credit, and negotiating intellectual policy rights, ensuring that graduate students and those in alternative academic careers have a voice and benefit from their work.

Research and advocacy

Professional associations often monitor issues that matter to their constituents and push for appropriate policies.  For instance, the ALA promotes intellectual freedom, equal access to information, and funding for libraries. In collaboration with groups such as the MLA and AHA, ADHO could advocate for policies that would advance teaching and research in the digital humanities, such as open access to educational resources, networked scholarly publishing, best practices for evaluating digital scholarship, and the core cyberinfrastructure to support digital scholarship.

Developing a statement of professional values and practices

At gatherings like THATCamp, you see the diversity and enthusiasm of the digital humanities community on display, as graduate students trade ideas with established scholars and collaborations come out of conversations and hackfests. Perhaps as the digital humanities grows and becomes institutionalized its inclusiveness will diminish; indeed, as Geoffrey Rockwell notes, there are already grumblings about the lack of inclusion (Rockwell).  To counter that risk, perhaps the digital humanities community needs to develop a statement of core values and encode openness into its culture. Such a statement of values would serve two purposes: digital humanists would gain a greater sense of ourselves as a community, and we would communicate that understanding to others. The values could help shape professional education, guide ethical practices, and give the community cohesion, as well as promote public trust (Frankel). Of course, developing a value statement may exclude rather than include, so efforts should be made to make the process of crafting such a statement as transparent, participatory, inclusive and flexible as possible.

We can look to other communities for examples of professional values. For librarians, core values include access, confidentiality, democracy, diversity, intellectual freedom, and service (American Library Association, “Core Values Statement”). Historians’ values focus on engaging in “critical dialogue,” maintaining the trust of scholars and the public, protecting the “integrity of the public record,” documenting sources, and embracing “mutual respect” (American Historical Association). Although I can find no documents that aim to articulate the values of the digital humanities, recent digital humanities manifestos offer forceful statements about the discipline’s priorities (“Manifesto for the Digital Humanities”; UCLA Mellon Seminar in Digital Humanities).[25] Drawing from these manifestos and my own sense of the community, I suggest that the values of the digital humanities might include openness (including a commitment to open access publication), transdisciplinarity, play and experimentation, an appreciation of both theoretical and “thing” knowledge (to borrow Geoffrey Rockwell’s terms), collaboration, diversity, and integrity.

Since many leaders in digital humanities organizations are already overstretched, how can these ambitious goals be accomplished? Try going to the network, both by asking for volunteers to take on initiatives and by aggregating existing efforts.[26] As is appropriate for a community that is committed to networked innovation, I think scholarly organizations in the digital humanities should harness technology and rethink traditional modes of getting things done. Just as the digital humanities is innovating in scholarly communication through Twitter, crowdsourced books, and blogs, so it can explore models for the twenty-first century scholarly association, which would combine the flexibility and speed of social networks with the leadership and cohesion of a scholarly organization. Maybe, like the unconference, which drains the formality, pre-generated structure, and dullness from the academic conference and replaces it with collaboration, just-in-time organization, and hacker glee in making stuff, we need the un-professional organization, or the un-scholarly society (although to avoid giving the wrong idea, we should use a different descriptor than “un,” such as “networked,” “open” or “participatory”). ADHO can crowdsource projects by outlining the challenge, inviting participation, providing seed money for infrastructure (if necessary), promoting the project, and recognizing contributions. It can even invite the community to help generate the list of prospective projects. As a member of the participatory scholarly association, you would pay your dues by doing (OK, you would probably continue to pay monetary dues as well) and use wikis or other technologies to contribute your ideas about the organization’s projects.[27] By participating, graduate students could gain valuable experience, connections and recognition, not to mention satisfaction.

There are two big risks with this crowdsourcing approach—too little participation, so that nothing is accomplished, or too much, so that pushy people dominate or flamewars erupt. Given how busy digital humanities folks already are, I think that the lack of participation is the greater risk. I’ve been a member of enough aimless committees to know that you need a clear charge, resources, and the division of responsibility to get some things done. But I also have been impressed by the entrepreneurial spirit of the digital humanities community.  Someone gets an idea (often through conversation with others), recruits colleagues, works hard, and makes something new, whether a group blog such as ProfHacker, a “multi-campus experiment in pedagogy” such as Looking for Whitman (Gold), or a book such as Hacking the Academy.  Why not take the same approach to the professional association? 

In many ways, the digital humanities provides a model for how to get past differences in status and just get things done.  Because of the discipline’s practical orientation and collaborative approach, it has more or less avoided the typical academic caste system and offered “a safe and inclusive space where having a faculty position (or not) made no difference” (Rockwell).  As Tom Scheinfeldt observes, “collegiality,” “openness,” and “collaboration” characterize the digital humanities community (Scheinfeldt, “Why Digital Humanities is “Nice””). Whereas most professional conferences typically attract people with the same professional background (such as English PhDs. or librarians), digital humanities conferences typically mix together faculty, librarians, information technologists, programmers, project managers, and foundation staff, but those professional distinctions seem not to matter. The leadership of the Association for Computers and the Humanities (ACH) reflects the diversity of the community and includes research staff based in libraries, digital humanities groups, and educational technology units; faculty in library science, humanities computing, and English; and a dean (“ACH Officers, Council Members, and Liaisons”). Although there are currently no graduate students in the executive council, the 2010 invitation for nominations takes a deliberately inclusive tone: “You don't need to be in an old-fashioned academic job: graduate students have often served on the council, for example, and commitment to the organization and to the field have usually counted for more with the membership than job titles” (Lavagnino).[28] Similarly, the HASTAC Scholars program enables students to participate in discussion forums about innovation in digital humanities and network with people from a range of professional backgrounds (Barnett). 

Tom Scheinfeldt suggests that digital humanities’ “niceness” results at least in part from its practical orientation, as digital humanists tend to focus on method rather than theory and can settle methodological debates more easily (Scheinfeldt, “Why Digital Humanities is “Nice””). As digital humanists collaborate to build a collection, create a tool, visualize data, or create a scholarly publishing platform, they value the unique skills that each team member brings to the project and learn how to get along. Since the digital humanities has tended to view itself as being marginalized by the academy, perhaps this feeling of exclusion creates a sense of solidarity (Rockwell).

Yet the digital humanities, like any other profession, can get caught up in differences and seem not so nice. Some feel excluded or alienated from the digital humanities, which they perceive as being too focused on employing computers to solve old problems rather than transforming scholarship using social media.[29] Others question whether people at second and third tier universities are being closed out, or whether digital humanities is being defined so narrowly that it excludes media studies (Unsworth, “The State of Digital Humanities, 2010”).  As John Unsworth suggests, ultimately these debates are about who gets jobs, but they are also about professional identity (Unsworth, “The State of Digital Humanities, 2010”). Observing these debates, leaders in the digital humanities rightly call for “reflection, grace, and a renewed commitment to inclusion” (Rockwell), expanding the community, and avoiding a bunker mentality (Unsworth, “The State of Digital Humanities, 2010”). As the digital humanities continues to professionalize, the community should pursue its goals in a way consistent with its own values and practices—that is, openly, flexibly, and inclusively. 

I suggest further professionalizing the digital humanities with some uncertainty, more in the spirit of opening a discussion than laying out an agenda that I believe must be followed. I wonder if it is even possible to have a single professional organization represent the digital humanities, since it encompasses so much.  I do not know how to raise the funds that would likely be necessary to support new initiatives. Most importantly, I worry that further professionalization would mean bureaucratization.  I fear that we would lose the fun, open, hacker-meets-scholar culture that has defined the digital humanities up until now, in part because “[t]here is not a traditional path in” (Terras). As my own experience as a digital humanist working in a library has made clear to me, a profession should provide multiple paths to entry. Perhaps professionalizing further will promote exclusion rather than inclusion, focusing on defining who counts as a member of the field rather than what it takes to advance the profession.  Louis Menand elucidates “contradictory impulses” in professionalism:

On the one hand, it belongs to the movement toward a democratic society and a free market economy.  Professionalism promises to open careers to talent [.....] On the other hand, professions are monopolistic: people who don’t have the credential can’t practice the trade. (Menand, The Marketplace of Ideas 101-102)

Historically the digital humanities has avoided creating narrow paths to membership, valuing passion over professional education. Many become digital humanists by serving as apprentices on projects or by pursuing intellectual interests that ultimately lead them to computers. Yet as Geoffrey Rockwell points out, the apprenticeship system no longer works for everyone, and may be more a function of where you are (at a university with a digital humanities center or a cadre of people interested in digital humanities) rather than what you are passionate about (Rockwell). By establishing model curricula, mentorship and internship programs, and a statement of core values, the digital humanities community can promote opportunity rather than acting monopolistic. In practical terms, inclusive professionalism means opening up more ways into the profession, such as through degree and certificate programs, rather than patrolling a single point of entry.

VII. Conclusion

My account of the conflicts over humanities PhDs entering librarianship highlights anxieties about professional identity.  Academic training in the humanities should not become narrowly careerist, and the MLS degree should be respected for providing core training in library values, culture, and methods. But in a time of such rapid change in how research is done and libraries operate, isn’t it necessary to stretch professional boundaries and bring in people who are hybrid professionals, scholar-librarians with a deep understanding of both libraries and research (Shore)? Rather than narrowing professional identity, we should provide opportunities for people to pursue hybrid careers that link different areas of knowledge. In a tight job market, people with a hybrid background (particularly informatics plus another discipline) claim an advantage, since they help companies respond strategically to complex new challenges by seeing the connections among ideas (Coombes). The same is true in academia. A diversity of people with MLS degrees, PhDs, and other professional backgrounds will promote the vigor of the academic ecosystem.

Sometimes others wonder what I am doing attending a literature conference or working as a librarian.  Sometimes I wonder myself.  But I have thrived in a hybrid position where I can continually learn new skills and contribute to scholarly and pedagogical projects, and I want other people to have the same opportunities. By collaborating with students, librarians, scholars, administrators, and others, digital humanists can transform the university, advancing new means of producing and disseminating knowledge. According to Jerome McGann, the main accomplishment of the University of Virginia in the 1990s was not producing projects like the Rossetti Archive, but training graduate students who became “the generation of scholars shaping the future of humanities research and education” (McGann). Some of those graduate students are now tenured or tenure track faculty, while others lead initiatives at digital humanities centers.  What greater testament can there be to the impact of the digital humanities—that it shapes nimble leaders as well as advances scholarship and teaching?  

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Unsworth, John M. “New Methods for Humanities Research.” 11 Nov. 2005. Web. 21 Mar. 2008.

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[1] Virginia eliminated permission in the mid-1990s.

[2] In her presentation, Stewart associated the digital humanities with the professional science masters (PSM), which combines training in entrepreneurship and management with graduate coursework in science or math to prepare students for careers managing labs, running start-ups, or working for government or non-profit groups. On the one hand, this comparison may indicate that the digital humanities is being seen more as training for a technical or managerial career than an academic one.  On the other hand, perhaps it would be useful for the digital humanities to incorporate entrepreneurship and project management skills into professional training, particularly for those who are interested in alternative academic or non-academic careers.

[3] Since writing this essay, I have taken a new position as the director of NITLE (National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education) Labs, but I have not revised the essay to reflect that new role. Some of the aims that I mention here--particularly the urge to focus more on research--led me to apply for my new position.

[4] Libraries typically distinguish between professionals and paraprofessionals, in my view relegating people without a library degree to a position that often offers lower status and pay.  This distinction originated in the in the early twentieth century as part of the American Library Association’s efforts to define professional training by separating clerical from professional work. Since paraprofessionals are now doing much of the same work as professional librarians, some are calling for professional status to be based on competency rather than degree (Oberg).

[5] Ideally participating in programs such as the CLIR postdoc would count toward a library degree; such was the hope when the CLIR program was announced, but it doesn’t appear to have panned out (Berry III).

[6] In 1975, the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) declared that an accredited master's degree in library science is the terminal degree for librarians (Association of College and Research Libraries).

[7] A good place to discover digital humanists on Twitter is Dan Cohen’s list of “editors” for Digital Humanities Now (Cohen).

[8] Some consider a history graduate degree to be a legitimate professional certification for an archivist (Society of American Archivists), although others argue that archivists need the specialized training in processing, arranging, and digitizing collections that a library degree offers (Danley).

[9] Yet I’m heartened to see that the Career Services Office at UVA now includes a web page offering vignettes from both MA and Ph.D. students who pursued alternative-academic and non-academic careers in fields such as publishing, journalism, development, and new media design and production (“Alumni Spotlight: Careers Beyond Academe”).

[10] The MLA does include a brief page on non-academic jobs on its web site, but it might consider creating a more substantial guide similar to the American History Association’s Careers for Students of History.

[11] For example, King’s College London requires prospective students for its Digital Humanities PhD program to have a “master's degree in a relevant subject,” since disciplinary knowledge is necessary to explore “the intersection of computing” and the humanities (Centre for Computing in the Humanities). 

[12] Most of these programs are fairly new and weren’t available for people who completed their graduate training in the 1990s (Terras).

[13] The Digital Humanities Summer Institute at the University of Victoria already holds a graduate school colloquium in which students present their work and receive feedback from both established scholars and fellow students; I would like to see such a program expanded. 

[14] Already the community has made an important step toward describing foundational knowledge in DH through the publication of A Companion to Digital Humanities, which a number of courses have adopted.

[15] To produce and publish the modules, I suggest using Connexions, an open educational platform and content repositories developed at Rice, my former employer (“Connexions”).  Connexions enables instructors to assemble “courses” from a collection of modules that can be modified and remixed.  Connexions uses the Creative Commons attribution license to facilitate re-use, and all of the modules are marked up in XML to support flexibility and data exchange.

[16] Julie Meloni pitched a similar idea at THATCamp 2010, proposing “Project ‘Develop Self-Paced Open Access DH Curriculum for Mid-Career Scholars Otherwise Untrained’” that would develop “bite-sized lessons” on technologies useful to humanities scholars (Meloni, “Project “Develop Self-Paced Open Access DH Curriculum for Mid-Career Scholars Otherwise Untrained””).

[17] A few digital humanities certificate programs already exist, but it appears that these require students to be in residence and already affiliated with the university. For instance, Texas A & M University offers a Digital Humanities Certificate for students enrolled in any graduate program at the university (“Digital Humanities Certificate”). Tulane University offers a Certificate in Archival and Digital Humanities for Masters students that aims to prepare them for employment in museums, libraries, archives and other institutions (Tulane University Department of English).

[18] Participants in a 2009 colloquium on “education in digital scholarship” likewise recommended organizing “collaborative M.A. and Ph.D. programs across universities,” as well as creating curriculum guidelines for graduate training (Sehat and Farr).

[19] However, there are more collaborative research postdocs in digital humanities. For example, the INKE (Implementing New Knowledge Environments) project offers a postdoctoral fellowship that requires “collaborating with INKE’s Textual Studies team and others, consulting with project stakeholders and potential stakeholders, and liaising with other INKE researchers located in North America and the UK” (Galey).

[20] Other digital humanities professionals who hold positions as research staff include Brett Barney, Research Assistant Professor at the University of Nebraska’s Center for Digital Research in the Humanities; Tom Elliot, Associate Director for Digital Programs and Senior Research Scholar at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University; and the recently-appointed Research Assistant Professor at the University of South Carolina’s Center for the Digital Humanities.

[21]I should emphasize that my aim is not to bash existing organizations, which I think are doing a great job, but to imagine some ways that they might further engage the problems of professional identity and advancement.

[22] Recent Digital Humanities conferences (sponsored by ADHO) have included more sessions on software studies, digital history, scholarly communication, geospatial scholarship, visualization, and cultural studies, so outreach efforts may already be having an impact.

[23] I’m focusing on the ACH here because ADHO is an umbrella organization and was founded only a few years ago, in 2005.

[24] I’m currently part of the group that is matching mentees to mentors. Since writing this essay, I was elected to the ACH Executive Council. Since ADHO is an umbrella organization, I now think that an organization like ACH may be better positioned to embark on some of these suggestions, but I'm also aware that it will be difficult for an all-volunteer organization to find the necessary time and resources.

[25] Of course, a manifesto is a different rhetorical form than a statement of values, focused on challenging the status quo and rallying the community rather than defining norms and best practices.  A statement of values is drier and more bureaucratic, but potentially more enduring and more useful in daily practice.  I elaborate on my ideas about a values statement for the digital humanities in a forthcoming essay for Debates in the Digital Humanities, edited by Matthew Gold.

[26] Already ADHO aggregates blogs and links to community efforts to share information, such as the collaborative Google calendar of digital humanities events that Amanda French launched (“Conferences for Digital Humanities, Digital Archives, Digital Libraries, and Digital Museums”). 

[27] Experiments with participation are already underway.  For instance, the MLA Committee on Information Technology (CIT) set up a wiki to collect resources related to the evaluation of digital scholarship (Modern Language Association Committee on Information Technology (CIT)).

[28] I used to be a member of the ACH’s nominations sub-committee.

[29] See, for instance, David Parry’s blog post “Be Online or Be Irrelevant” and the resulting discussion (Parry).

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